John Taylor bought the first season tickets in Spokane Shock history. He’s been known to schedule his vacations to attend Shock road games. He’s seen 17 of the Shock’s 20 arenafootball2 games this season.
There was no mystery where he was going to be Monday night.
So one can imagine the anxiety he was feeling as the Shock trailed deep into the fourth quarter against underdog Tennessee Valley in the ArenaCup, the championship game of af2, before a sellout crowd of 10,662 at the Spokane Arena.
Spokane tied the game with a minute left and had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Brian Jackson’s 33-yard field goal attempt was wide right. In overtime, Spokane scored first when Kelvin Dickens took a swing pass and sprinted 25 yards into the end zone. Tennessee Valley answered on Alonzo Nix’s juggling 24-yard touchdown catch.
That set up a dramatic finish. The Vipers went for two. Backup quarterback Tony Colston scrambled away from defenders and dove into the end zone, giving the Vipers a wild 56-55 victory and leaving the largest crowd ever to watch a Shock game in stunned silence.
“I’m completely devastated,” said Taylor, who will take over as president of the Shock booster club next season. “It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but you have to give Tennessee Valley credit. They brought their A game.”
The loss dampened an otherwise stellar season for the top-seeded Shock, who finished 18-2. They won the West Division and the National Conference, but fell short in the championship game to the fourth-seeded Vipers.
“It hurts,” Spokane receiver Raul Vijil said. “We just couldn’t pull it off.”
Colston and a stingy defense carried the Vipers (14-6). Colston came on after starter Kevin Eakin injured his ankle after throwing a touchdown pass on Tennessee Valley’s first possession. Colston had attempted just four passes all season, completing one, and that came on July 12 in mop-up duty against Daytona Beach. He passed for 288 yards and seven touchdowns against Spokane.
“I thought we were going to get (Colston) for a second at the 1-yard line,” Taylor said. “For him to come off the bench and play the game he did was pretty amazing. I thought we were going to take this thing for sure when their (starting) quarterback went down.”
Luke Tolley was disappointed with the outcome, but he was appreciative of the opportunity to see an ArenaCup in Spokane. The Shock won the ArenaCup in their inaugural season in 2006, knocking off Green Bay in Puerto Rico.
“It’s awesome having the game here,” said Tolley, a season-ticket holder who bought $100 worth of Shock merchandise prior to kickoff. “I wonder if the locals appreciate it. I mean we appreciate it, but I don’t know if we get the context of it. We’re having a national championship in Spokane and there are 27 other (af2) teams that really wish it was them.”